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A Craftsman With Great Views
With a relatively short production schedule, the filmmakers were on high alert from the get-go. Essentially, they were confronted with a film that is primarily set on one street and largely within one home on that street. As they began pre-production on "Disturbia,” however, they quickly found that even "one street/one home” movies can be challenging. "It sounded like a very simple movie to shoot,” says Caruso. "A boy has a tragedy in the beginning and then gets sentenced to house arrest. From then on he's basically in his home where he starts looking out at his neighbors. But as we began figuring out the logistics of what we needed each house in the neighborhood to be, we eventually ended up with a backyard in one city, a front yard in a different city and interiors built on soundstages. It was a lot more difficult than I'd first imagined.”

What proved particularly helpful to the director in maximizing his shooting days was his alliance with production designer Tom Southwell. Caruso and Southwell's relationship dates back to "Drop Zone” on which Caruso was handling the second unit. That experience proved so fruitful that when Caruso was about to direct his first film, "The Salton Sea,” he brought Southwell onboard as production designer.

Southwell has continued to design every Caruso film since. The question on "Disturbia” was, "What will our suburbia look like?” As Caruso notes, "There have been films with suburban neighborhoods made up of cookie-cutter houses, many of them in the ‘70s and ‘80s. But suburban neighborhoods have changed and we really wanted each house to have its own personality. For Kale's house, we loved the idea of a Craftsman, like the ones you see in Pasadena [many of which are modeled on the Arts and Crafts bungalows of Charles and Henry Greene]. We felt like that style would be warm and inviting and, at the same time, it could be a scary, dark place when the movie turns into a thriller.

"The Greene & Greene architecture feels hooded, with the deep-set windows and doors, overhanging porches and other elements designed to keep out the sunlight,” continues Caruso. "So, it's always much brighter outside and darker and cooler inside. For a voyeuristic movie, we liked having our lead character in the dark, looking out into the light.”

Producer Walsh adds, "Obviously, the big thing we had to look for was the neighborhood and the house. Everything takes place in that house. And there were certain needs in terms of the front of the house and the back of the house that led to a countrywide search.”

Neighborhoods in North Carolina and Georgia were explored as were areas in California and every studio backlot in town. The quest was complicated by the fact that the script called for certain specific characteristics in Kale's home including second-story windows that look out onto the front, back and side yards, as well as a driveway (which separates Kale's house from Ashley's) and a backyard (that bordered on Turner's yard). The major stumbling block proved to be finding the right backyard, since it entailed knocking on doors or, perhaps, hopping fences. But Caruso had an idea – a helicopter ride. "We had to go up in a chopper and actually start educating ourselves on different backyards since that was the quickest way to view them,” says Walsh. "That's how we ultimately found what ended up being Turner's backyard.”

The production split up Kale's house into three locations: the front was in Whittier, California (with Ashley's house right next-door); the back of the house was in Pasadena (a false "back” was built and a fence was erected between the façade and Turner's house); and interiors, primarily Kale's bedroom, his late father's study and the first floor kitchen, which were constructed on soundstages on the Paramount Picture


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